The news from Ohio regarding this senseless and preventable tragedy breaks my heart. Terry Thompson was convicted in 2005 of animal cruelty! Yet the lack of laws in Ohio which would prevent him from housing animals, the incompetence, negligence or both of USDA and other regulators led to this enormous loss.
This is not an isolated incident. As a country, America needs to develop national and robust standards toward individuals in this sordid trade in wild animals. In the meantime, I call on Ohio, my home state of Arizona and the other states without laws related to housing and trade in wild animals to immediately correct their oversight. In all jurisdictions, animals must come first. Permits to have these animals should be granted rarely – exceedingly rarely. Both oversight and penalties for violations must be vigorous. In my experience, USDA, Game and Fish regulators and the like are not up to the task. I find they do not err on the side of animals and far too often, have coddled, shielded and obfuscated for those negligent or worse in the care of animals.
It is not acceptable when known sites like this exist, that local law enforcement does not have contingency plans and tools ready to respond. Shooting to death these innocent animals is not appropriate when for not much money, they could have tranquilizers ready should an escape or release unfold. They should also have predetermined places to take the tranquilized animals. Of course, I understand that being ill prepared, the officers had no choice but their leadership should have made sure the officers in the field were prepared in advance. It’s not like they and USDA didn’t know about Terry Thompson.
As a veterinarian, I am an advocate for animals. As a citizen, I am appalled by the state of animal protection in our country through the law, regulators and preparedness for those called to respond to a crisis such as this. The loss of these magnificent animals is staggering. They are irreplacable.